[RPG] An anime-istic RPG I'm doing for the guys

stryker 11-25-2005 10:49 PM
I wonder if anyone has ever done anything like this.

My brother has been after me to do a D&D RPG he and the guys could play in for... jeepers, a few years now! He insists that I'm awesome. I can come up with a good one now and then, but I didn't have any ideas until it occured to me that as much as I love anime, to do one which is anime in style, plot and everything. Even using a soundtrack to add emotional flavor to the thing! And in short order, I had an idea. It's using a lot of the flavor of Inuyasha (go ahead and groan, but it's not your schoolgirl's Inuyasha), some Samurai Champloo (my turn to groan, that anime doesn't suit me), Naruto, and little bits of almost everything and anything. My favorite anime characters will be making appearances and figure into the plot in some way, and the story is very loose, so that the guys can shape the direction it can go to a great extent. I'm scripting events sort of like a screenplay for the guys to experience now and then, the rest I improv like normal.

The premise is that about 500 years ago, a fiefdom on the western part of feudal Japan suffered a catastophy of some kind. The daimyo (lord) and several people were killed at the castle, and it was rumored that some of the people went crazy. The survivors grabbed whatever they could make off with and booked back to their families. The citizens were scared to death, and when neighboring fiefdoms and kingdoms began to take some of it over, the leaderless people weren't in any position to resist, and they did want protection from rival armies and bands of marauders. A few brave souls sought to take over, but they and their men suffered some sort of ominous deaths, or at least that's the rumor, as they entered the castle and were never heard from again. And there is something dwelling in the castle, as a shadowy form can be seen leaving the castle on rare evenings.

But less than a year ago, a lord came along with a band of men and apparently claimed the abandoned castle for his own, and became daimyo. No one is sure what the nature of this ruler is, but he seemed strong enough to withstand whatever it was that had infested the castle. And he seemed benevolent enough, and his men treated the villagers fairly, with only as many taxes as they could afford, and there was no forced conscription, as happened with so many young fiefdoms as the daimyo sought to strengthen his young army to fend off others who would test the mettle of the new ruler, who's name is Nobunaga.

So far, that test has yet to come...

Oh, and along with the above premise, a number of groups are curious as to just who this Nobunaga character is, how he did what he did, and just what the heck the deal is, because he seems a little too good to be true. So the guys are playing people sent from different factions, like a wizard, a gang member, a monk and a ninja from a nearby clan. They join the garrison so they can be closest to the action, and maybe sabotage things if it seems Nobunaga is some kind of naughty person.

The players are:
Neji Hyuuga, ninja (my bro John, and no, not THE Neji)
Saruwatari Tukumi, magician (Jesse, friend)
Matsuo Makoto, ex-samurai who was betrayed, now gang leader (Matt, relative)
Roshi, Buddhist monk (Rob, friend)
Momo, NEW ADDITION! Thief, sidekick of Matsuo (John's daughter, soon to appear)

NPCs are:
Lord Oda Nobunaga
Captain Bartukio, a swarthy foreigner, chief advisor to Nobunaga
Leutenant Baupustin, a blond foreigner, kind of a weirdo actually
Sergeant Yoshi Takemura, chief Samurai
Akira Kouga, Yoshi's left hand and best fighter in the garrison, Neji's rival
Sergeant Mako Sautome, head of the platoon the guys are in, Yoshi's rival

Nobunaga and his closest men are adapted from the magnificent anime Gankutsuou, and behaves much the same way, though more benevolent. But like I say, the guys aren't quite sure if he's a good guy, or just a master manipulator. So, how about a few script elements to show you what the guys are living through?
* * * * * * *

Note: skip the rest of this post in order to read the RP story in order. I merely left this here so Rev's post below makes sense.

(To set this scene up, Sergeant Mako and Akira are on guard on the front steps of the castle. Previously, they left the garrison without permission to help the guys, sent on a mission to deal with a marauder named Nagadoku and his men who had been giving the fiefdom trouble, and nearly killed everyone. They helped the guys beat the bandits)

Akira: You were impressive in battle, back there, dealing with Nagadoku. (looks to him)

Mako: As were you. I didn't hear you following me, though I would have been disappointed had you not, after bumping into you at the armory. (looks back to Akira) You know, we aren't supposed to speak while on guard.

Akira: I know. But you aren't supposed to let your eyes wander while on guard either.

Mako: I know. (grins, then looks forward) Why did you abandon the garrison? Those are not your men.

Akira: I knew there would be trouble. And I cannot bear to let anyone fall into misfortune. It is my way to help everyone.

Mako: (grins) Even a kitsune? (yes, Shippo is a part of the story, you may gag now)

Akira: (mutters) Why does everyone have to make a big deal out of that?

Mako: (grins more) Sometimes I think you should have been a priest.

Akira: (frowns, shrugs) I have my reasons. And... anyway, I am afraid that the masters couldn't answer my questions satisfactorily. (long silence) Sergeant... what do you make of Lord Nobunaga?

Mako: (frowns) What kind of question are you asking?

Akira: (shrugs) Well... doesn't he puzzle you? What his past is? How he came to be here? How he has managed to accomplish all these miracles in the fiefdom? Why he is the way he is, and like no other lord I have ever heard of?

Mako: Akira, are you thinking treasonous thoughts?

Akira: (head quivers in a shake) No, not at all! It's just... I'm having trouble finding the right words without sounding... suspicious.

Mako: (frowns) A man with any sense at all would be glad to give his life for such a lord. He has worked some kind of miracle here. He has been generous and benevolent with our people when such an attitude might have endangered his rule. It is true that he is an enigma, the likes of which I have never seen, but who can he be compared to? He is like a living legend, garnering people of immense stature to serve under him like Sergeant Takamura and Swordmaster Masume. He is as strong and skilled as the boldest samurai, and as wise as a master philosopher. I am certain that he has no stat below 15. (a bit of gaming humor, I couldn't resist) Big Grin

Akira: (blinks) I know, I know all of that. But... he seems much too brilliant. I feel insignificant next to him. He plays games constantly. I sometimes wonder if we aren't simply pieces in some incredible game he is playing with the world.
(they jerk to stiff attention as they hear a deep powerful voice)

Nobunaga: The daimyo might be disappointed to hear such talk.
(he walks past looking stoic with Capt Bartukio and Baupustin, who grins devilishly at them)

Akira: (choking) It... it was nice knowing you...

Mako: (grins) He hasn't slain you yet.

Akira: (gags) PLEASE don't say such a thing in a moment like this... Big Grin
harshfire 11-25-2005 11:57 PM
quote:
Mako: (grins) Even a kitsune? (yes, Shippo is a part of the story, you may gag now)


I thought that was kind of funny. Your comment anyway. This sounds like a great RP. lol. I like it, and the plot is good.

I wish I was half the writer you are. T_T Embarrassed Sweatdrop

Later days:
Rev
stryker 11-26-2005 12:10 AM
Well, even as I posted this stuff, I was getting requests for more. It's not like I mind or anything, I do like my work to be admired and all. Pleased

So I suppose I'll post some tidbits in the course of their adventures. (Oh, and thank you very much for the nice post JA! I appreciate it). I'm going back and covering many of the highlights of what has gone on, putting things from here on in a roughly chronological order. I'll see if I can include some of the guys' RP dialog too, they're a lot of fun to game with. I'll leave the above post alone since JA's won't make any sense if I change it. I'm using my own system, and they don't mind that this is a story driven game so it's light on loot, and there's no experience points or anything, so mostly it's a matter of them enjoying taking on a role and actually roleplaying! What a concept. Big Grin

As I said, I'm making everything associated with Lord Nobunaga and his crew a big mystery. Like where he came from, how he was able to defeat whatever it was that lurked in the castle, why he's so cool, why his canines are so prominent, and even weird things like how he's able to deliver hot and cold running water to the town. There's a big cliff in back of the castle, and some immense plates of steel set into the face of it with a few doorways which can't be reached, and some large pipes running into the side of the cliff and into town. If you've seen the marvelous anime movie Spirited Away, this might sound familiar.

I'm giving some of the NPCs a good deal of intelligence and common sense too. I'd think that after decades and decades of war and Japan being chewed up into constantly battling fiefdoms and little kingdoms, people would begin to have serious doubts. So I'm having some of the brighter people question why the gods let things go to hell in a handbasket, especially for so long. Not everyone will be giving pat answers like, "Surely you remember the words of the Great Buddha..." They will be on a quest for Truth themselves and will let those they sense can trust know this. It will get MUCH worse too, as the troubles begin to ascend to the heavens.

In case you hadn't noticed, I'm all about that quest for Truth stuff. Pleased

I'm including things like the little demons like Shippou because they'll offer avenues to learn things and gain power, which I want to give the guys plenty of options. Some of it will be in harmony, some of it will be confusing and contradictory, as many things in life are. The info they have on Nobunaga is a big snarl of confusion right now, so they're thinking of doing some poking around in the castle after hours, like when they go on guard duty in the middle of the night sometime.

If you want to put some identity to the other names, here ars some examples.

Sgt Yoshi is like Akira from the Virtua Fighter series.

Sgt Mako is like the soldier Maximillian from Gankutsuou, just as dedicated and virtuous.

Akira is like Sasuke from Naruto. In fact he has a gang of six others leading Sgt Yoshi's platoon who are like some of the cooler young ninjas from the anime. Akira is just as headstrong and reckless, working to take matters into his own hands, which will get him into a LOT of trouble down the road. But what he gets involved in will further the plot for everyone. His posse consists of (characters from Naruto/FMA):

Shun Sato (Rock Lee)
Jin Kaneko (Kiba)
Ryo Nagai (Shino, minus dark glasses)
Yuji Naka (Shikamaru)
Kenji Kawai (Naruto at 16/Ed Elric)
Osamu Saka (Neji, the real one minus scary eyes)

I have to report that last saturday everyone was sick, bleargh. But, hopefully the next session involving Jesse's desperate plan to keep from getting hung by his sensitive areas will be quite the festival of chaos, and I'll have some fun stuff to post. Big Grin

For now, I'll post some stuff which has led up to where we are now. Some of it will be script format, some will be ficcie style. And because Naruto (and Big O) has some adult language in it, so does my RP, so consider it like a PG in rating. Enjoy if you dare!
stryker 11-26-2005 12:31 AM
Note: as stated, the RP is rated PG for some adult language and descriptions of violence. This is the first scenes when the adventure begins in earnest, as the guys deal with a serious problem to Wakasa Fiefdom.

(soldierscome in from the front gate, some wounded) Lord Nobunaga! Our men were not--

Nobunaga: (fingers to lips, motions to the others) You men, take the wounded to the infirmary, discreetly. You, come to the meeting room. Sergeat Saotome, and you three, come with me as well.

(inside) Now, give me your report.

Soldier: We took your letter to Nagadoku. (bitterly) And he spat on it! He is stronger than we thought, and his numbers are greater. He had twenty, now perhaps eight are with him. But I was afraid our lives were lost. We were at their mercy. We only lived to return to deliver a message to you. (pauses, looking distressed)

Nobunaga: Well? What did he tell you?

Soldier: I cannot... (after badgering says, distressed) I can only bring myself to say that... he called you foul names, and to go to Hell!

Nobunaga: The impudence of that animal!
(rises, turns away) Well, this is troubling. I was hoping to negotiate further. You see, when dealing with an opponent, first I try diplomacy. Their leader is a man called Nagadoku (snake venom). An elusive fellow leading a gang of bandits. At first, he seemed accomodating to being bought off. But it's obvious now that he simply wanted some easy money, with no attention of holding to an agreement. A man with no honor, little more than a snake. He should be dealt with accordingly.

Now... who would be willing to take on this miscreant?
(Baupistin begins to speak up but Bartukio stops him)

Matsuo: Lord Nobunaga, I would be honored to be among those to bring this vermin to justice. (the others chime in, joined by one or two more)

Nobunaga: (smiles, perhaps woolfishly) Excellent. My domain needs those willing to rise to any challenge we face. Sergeant Saotome, ready them for a mission. Then give them your blessing.

Mako: (gasps) But... I am to lead them, am I not?

Nobunaga: No, Sergeant. You will remain here. (smiles) Come now, they are all capable men. Have faith in them.

(they watch as the guys go, Soundtrack: Nobunaga's Theme)
Mako: But... my lord, those three have only just arrived. They are untried. Why are you sending them on this mission?

Nobunaga: A test, Sergeant Saotome, of many things. Of loyalty, to me, to my Daimyo, to each other. Of integrity, to see if they will give a true report, or cover for themselves, or each other. Of courage, to see if they are true warriors who can deal with a challenge themselves, as a team, without having someone babysit them. If they are spies, at some point, there will be a mistake, some discrepancy, for I have some very sharp eyes watching them. Let us see how they handle themselves with this first trial.
* * * * * * * * *

They travelled during some of the night to the place Nagadoku's lair was known to be near, arriving just before dawn. They sensed eyes watching them, disgruntled that they seemed to have lost the element of surprise but decided to continue on with the mission. Neji scouted around a bit, spotting four people hiding behind trees just ahead, managing to avoid detection thanks to his leet ninja skillz. Matsuo (the leader) decided to go out and confront them openly while the others hung back and hoped to ambush them in turn. Gin Yamamoto, one of the braver guys from their platoon who volunteered to go as well, accompanied Matsuo but was rather frightened.

Matsuo: All right, we are aware of each other's presence here. Come out and surrend-

(Cue the incredible Naruto OST - Need to be Strong)
Nagadoku: (calls to them) Oh look, more visitors, and I just had company. (comes out of the bushes and rubs his chin) Do you not know they failed miserably? Or are you too stupid to know when you're outclassed?

(spits) That Daimyo of yours is supposed to be so damn smart, but he does some really stupid things. You look even weaker than that last bunch we took care of. You'd think that after sending them back the way we did, you'd know we're not interested in talking. I guess we didn't hurt them enough to get the message across. (grins wickedly) Too bad for you.

Gin: How dare you insult our lord, you bastard!!

Matsuo: (holding Gin in check) Lord Nobunaga has been very lenient with you. You should have been wise enough to take him up on his more than generous offer rather than do as he should have, and gone after your worthless hide.

Nagadoku: (waves in contempt) Whatever. This is the way it is. Why should I get a handful of iron bits from that idiot coward of a Daimyo, when I can make a lot more, robbing and killing you weaklings. It's basic math. And besides, it's a lot more fun.

Matsuo: We came to put an end to your wickedness. You may mock us now, but you'll be telling a different tale when you taste our steel!

Nagadoku: (he and his men laugh) Oh, stop it! How are a few kids and one washed up chaperone going to carry out such a boast? I tell you what. You give up, give us that nice new gear of yours, and let us have some fun with you... and we might even let you live.

Matsuo: You and your men do not impress us, nor are you trustworthy. I would suggest you rethink your position before it's too late.

Nagadoku: (spits) I hate to get blood all over that nice new armor, but some people have to do things the hard way... Get 'em, men.

They engaged fiercely, Neji throwing a pair of knives at his opponent as he ran at them from the brush, but they found that these men were battle heardened and quite deadly fighters. Their swords weren't in great shape, but they used them very well. Nagadoku however had a pair of swords that looked like they came from a shogun, and as Matsuo faced him, he suffered some dreadful wounds from them. Gin fought beside him, doing his best to deal with his opponents, but they began to carve him up rather badly. The others suffered as well, slowly being nicked and cut as attacks managed to penetrate their excellent armor. Gin managed to drop the one facing him, but almost cried in frustration as another thug appeared from the brush to take him on. "Don't think you can rest, kid! This will be your last day!" he snarled.

Saruwatari fared much better, having stayed back to use his bow, and only took a wound from a thrown knife. A thug ran at him, but Saruwatari had a serpent staff Tsubaki made for him which he threw on his opponent. It wrapped itself around the goon and Saruwatari took him down, slitting his throat. Another one came to get revenge on his fellow, leaving Gin who looked half carved up, but Saru had some spore pods which caused a debilitating cloud to cover him. Saru took advantage of that to pin him and slit his throat as well.

Nagadoku: (yells in frustration as Matsuo refuses to fall) Can't you dogs fight any better than that against these kids?! The rest of you get out here!!
(leers at Matsuo who gapes at the fresh thugs) Give it up, you old has-been!

Matsuo: We don't trust you to honor your word! DIE!

Neji pushed his opponent into Nagadoku, hoping to give Matsuo an opening to deal a serious blow, but it didn't quite work as expected. Nagadoku was enraged, slicing his man in the back.

Nagadoku: (blocks Matsuou's attack, bellows) Damn you! Get away from me, you worthless turd! (the man stumbles away in agony as a few others run up uncertainly to take his place, shocked that their boss would attack their own like that)

Neji is aghast at these approaching reinforcements and decided to go for broke, grabbing a handfull of flash bombs and tossing them at the approaching goons. Unfortunately, everyone was caught off guard by the blinding glare, including himself as evidently one went off prematurely (critical bad die roll). So there was a lot of floundering around for a moment from everyone. But the marauders were quite angry and redoubled their efforts to win against these clumsy kids. Gin was saying his prayers, growing weak, just able to fend off his foes. Saruwatari was unable to engage in the fight directly but blocked Nagadoku's sword swipe at Matsuo with his staff, and he was astonished when sparks flew. Those were magical swords!
harshfire 11-26-2005 11:27 AM
"And it doubles!" Catch phrase from an old Japanese game show. Embarrassed Sweatdrop

This just keeps getting better, and I had to comment again. Big Grin You work with people who have great writing skills. I hope you post more of this, since I really enjoy reading it.

Kudos!

Later days:
JA
Username: Rev VII
stryker 11-26-2005 01:44 PM
Just then, three arrows pierced the goon trying to kill Gin and he fell back, and with a cry (and some DESPERATELY hoped for rescue music) Sergeant Mako Saotome and Akira Kouga came flying into the battle. Nagadoku practically screamed in outrage, and apparently the last of the thieves joined in the battle, trying to outnumber the guys. Akira was appalled at how wounded everyone was and joined in the fight near Neji and Matsuo. He cried out as Nagadoku raised his monstrous sword to strike Neji dead, flinging himself in the way and taking a cut across his shoulder. He lept back to his feet, shrugging off the wound and taking on Nagadoku himself.

Akira: (yells at Neji) How could you let these wimps get the better of you!

Neji: (shouts back angrily) We were outnumbered, and look at those swords! If you came to help, shut up and fight!

Nagadoku: (snarls in near madness) Damn you all! If I have to kill you all myself, I'll do it! None of you will live to see the noonday sun!

He was frustrated in his attempt to kill Matsuo as Akira threw himself in front of the ex-samurai, taking another blow himself, but was driven to the ground by a fierce pummel from the marauder. Matsuo got his attention with a solid cut to the leader's shoulder while he was occupied with Akira, who was beginning to look rather bad off himself. Neji was thinking desperately, feeling that he was near death anyway, and planned to throw himself between Nagadoku's legs, stabbing like mad at the goon with his kunai knives, but before he could do anything, Nagadoku retaliated on Matsuo with a pair of terrible cuts with those dreadful swords which were more than he could take, and everything for him went black.

Akira gaped in horror at the body of the fighter falling beside him and went berzerk, throwing himself onto an astonished Nagadoku with a scream! "Damn you... I'll kill you!! ALL OF YOU!!" The thug couldn't deal with with this youth fighting with the bloodthirsty fury of a tiger and frantically called for help, but only a couple could respond. Akira dropped his swords, drawing knives and stabbing one coming up in the throat, and the other one couldn't quite deal with him as he swung his knives in deadly arcs, slicing the rogue's armor to pieces in strike after strike. Neji was dumbfounded at Akira's speed and rage.

The other thug fell, and Nagadoku found himself unable to stop this maniac, who began taking his armor apart, seemingly incapable of being hit by his powerful swords, no matter how hard he tried to land a blow on Akira, and he fought as if he could care less if he did get hit!

Nagadoku: (screams in fear of his life) Damn it to... run! Just RUN! Damn you, you demon from Hell!!

Akira refused to yield, taking on the ones who came to Nagadoku's aid as if they were nothing, intent on killing their leader, chasing them as they scampered as fast as they could for the cover of thicker woods. Sergeant Mako dropped his opponent, having helped Gin out and called anxiously to Akira, who seemed oblivious to the danger of following these foes alone to their lair. "Akira... AKIRA! WAIT! Oh crap, Gin, we have to stop him!" He chased after, and the others, dealing with the last of their opponents, followed.

Akira fell across the corpse of one of the thieves in his frantic attempt to fight through him to get to the leader, still intent on pursuing Nagadoku to whatever rats nest he would hide in to kill him, giving Mako a chance to reach him as he scrambled to his feet. "Akira!" he shouted, grabbing for his arm, which the youth snatched back with a deadly glare. "AKIRA! Stop it! Listen to me! We have to go back. We have badly wounded men to tend to. You have wounds of your own. You're not in any condition to be playing hero. We can't take a chance on an ambush. We would all be dead." He heaved a breath as Akira seemed to calm down slightly. "We have to protect our comrades. Let's go back."

The youth glared angrily at the Sergeant, but then he remembered his fallen comrade and choked, dashing madly back to the scene of combat, falling to the ex-samurai's side and shouting, "Matsuo... Matsuo!! Damn it... don't you DARE die on me!"

Saruwatari had some healing magic and tried to revive him, but, "He's... not responding, at all..." And... there was something terrible about Matsuo's wounds, something that seemed to fight against his power, and ached in his gut...

Akira gasped, a look of horror in his eyes, rising to his knees, muttering denials. But when he realized Matsuo wouldn't revive ever again, he pounded his fist into the ground, grabbing his sword, and threw it into a tree with an anguished scream that made everyone cringe and hang their heads. Akira turned away, shaking and sobbing, fighting for control of his emotions.

"I've never seen a comrade die. It... hurts worse than I thought it would." He looked down, clenching his fist. "But, such is the life of a soldier. We live as weapons to serve our Daimyo. I guess I sound bitter, but... eh, I understand it. I swore my oath. I knew what I was doing. I'm sure he did too."

He heaved a shuddering sigh, fighting to continue. "At least... he died honorably. It isn't right that he had to fall at the hands of that bastard. But... he proved himself, to me. If he was a spy, he either did a foolish thing... or he believes in our Daimyo, like I do. I just wish that... I could have known..." He cast a hollow gaze to the sky with a quivering breath.

Sergeant Mako murmured, going to his side, "Akira-kun..."

Akira turned back with a feeble smile. "I'm okay." But he casts a furious look to Neji as if in blame for what happened.

Mako heaved a weary sigh of his own, as if the weight of this trauma was almost more than he could bear. "He was my responsibility, and I let him down. If I had just been a minute sooner..." He clenched his fist, and went on with a sigh. "Eh... we don't have time for regrets. We... have to get him back. I'll be the first to carry him, and the last."

Just then, everyone became aware of an ominous presence...

Matsuo was drifting in a darkness, feeling much like a cloud, detached but torn with anguish and worry... he knew this was no dream, that he had perished and wouldn't be returning, leaving many things undone, many regrets hanging over his heart, especially his turning to crime after his betrayal... what would be his fate now? Where did his destiny lie? Would some merciful deity save him from Hell?

About him, almost imperceptibly, a light began to shine, gradually pushing aside this curtain of eternal night, coming to rest on him, shining through him completely, into the very core of his being. An unfathomable emotion flooded through his spirit, a sense of infinite power and majesty, as well as judgement, but mingled with it, love sweeter than any mortal heart could contain. He was almost afraid to speak, but words came from him as if resonating from his very form. "My Lord, what brings you to regard this worthless one in this void?"

The being chuckled to him in a way that seemed pleasant rather than arrogant or condescending. "You were more brave than prudent, and now look where it got you. Am I going to have to save you every time I turn around, like that silly Baupustin? You still have a destiny to fulfill, if that is your wish. Your path must be chosen carefully, for the world will be going through a very complicated time. Would you return to a life of pain, conflict and sorrow, to see your journey through to its ultimate conclusion?"

He seemed to know what was in Matsuo's heart and went on as if the answer had been spoken. And perhaps it had. "Here... take my hand. There will be some pain for a while... and, be sure and guard your heart, and keep it from temptation, of all sorts..."

There was a tremendous sensation of power flowing into Matsuo as he took the being's hand, all manner of emotions filling his soul, and that face... that glorious face...

(Oh, and thank you for the kind words JA! I look forward to you and the gang taking part in the roleplay again soon) Smile
stryker 12-13-2005 09:14 PM
Note: These next sections involve the introduction of some supporting characters so there's a lot of joking around and fluff mixed in with the serious stuff. But I think it's quite amusing and cute. Wink

The others were dealing with the matter of searching over the area for some intelligence or loot to take back with them, burdened by the solemn mood. Akira poked around in the area he had been fighting Nagadoku, recalling dimly that things were being cut from his garb in the fight, and he found some curious items besides a money pouch with some money and jewels in it.

There was a note, rather mangled now but still legible, and another pouch which held a polished wooden cube, perhaps two inches square on all sides. There was no seam he could make out, but it was heavy, as if something was inside it. He rubbed it absently as he read the note, and despite his anguish, he had enough sense to be concerned by its message:

You have done well enough to earn these favors. The others are oblivious as to what is truly going on. Continue to show me success and obedience, and there will be no end to your power.
N


He muttered to himself, "Whatever this means, it's bad, very bad..."

Sergeant Mako was gathering Matsuo's belongings to secure to his body, his cheeks burning in anger and sorrow, having half a mind to give into his own thirst for revenge and go with Akira to see if they could finish the bloody gang off, when there was a cough... coming from Matsuo's body. He could scarcely believe it, but the color had returned to his face and he was breathing! It was a miracle! Mako could barely contain his laughter. "Sauwatari! You did it after all! Oh my God... come help me! Bandages... get out all our medical things!"

Akira nearly jumped out of his armor at the exclamation, and almost fell down in his haste to get back, staring at Matsuo in near disbelief. He said softly with a faint smile as the others tended to him, "Bakara... don't you dare do that again... or I'll kill you myself." But then, he remembered that feeling, of some great presence in the area and he grew somber, wondering...

Matsuo tried to remember that unearthly experience himself, and that being that had resurrected him, and it seemed that the image he recalled was of Lord Nobunaga... wasn't it? Whatever, he was overjoyed to be counted among the living, vowing to find some way out of his life of crime and back to restoring his honor. The pain he felt seemed insignificant.

When they were sure that Matsuo was as fit for travel as could be, he ordered them to move out. "There's no telling how many men that monster may still have under him, so we'd best put some distance between ourselves and this place."

Sergeant Mako said to Akira quietly as they set off, "Thank you for following me. That was an awful fight. Without your help, who knows if we would have won."

Akira showed his findings to Mako. "What do you make of this?"

The sansou read the note, frowning. "Did you see those swords Nagadoku was weilding?"

Akira smirked, pointing to his wounds. "I did more than see them." He looked down, as if the pain from them began wearing on him anew. "They were like the swords of a shogun... there was something terrible about them. Saruwatari says they were magical."

Mako nodded somberly. "I believe it. I wonder how dreadful this news really is." He looked at the wooden box. "And this... it seems that there's something inside, but there's no way to get it open. This may be the most significant thing Nagadoku lost."

Akira murmured his unspoken continuation. "And may do anything to get them back."

When they broke for a brief lunch, they fussed over the box for a while. Akira was against revealing the finds to the others, but Sergeant Mako assured him he would keep an eye on them. Neji tried some things, but couldn't locate any seams at all, even when submerging it briefly in a stream. And then as they were finishing up their meal, an unusual encounter took place, as two attractive young women approached them, acting rather oddly.

Sergeant Mako couldn't help remarking guardedly, "Those two are strange."

Akira nodded. "No kidding."

The first one said to the group a bit nervously, "Uhm... pardon please our intrusion but... we became lost."

The younger one added a bit too cheerfully, "We are so embarrassed. May we join you. I mean... may we join you?" She began batting her eyes at them, evidently trying to blink, but she seemed terribly awkward about it as if she had completely forgotten how to, and they began squabbling with each other as the older one evidently tried to demonstrate to her companion!

Akira stared at them in disbelief. "They act like they've been drinking or something."

Gin sighed. "I could use a drink after all we've been through."

Akira remarked with a smirk, "Even if it's poisoned?" The warning elicited a gulp from the young soldier.

The older girl waved hand frantically. "Oh no, we're nothing like that."

The younger one blurted out, "We just want your food - OWW!" She winced in pain as the first one bopped her, and snapped in a voice much more like a young child, "What did you do that for?!" This caused even louder bickering between them, and the soldiers began to shy away from the pair. No matter how pretty they were, this was just too bizarre.

Mako coughed, having seen enough and knowing that they had to get moving quickly. "Uhm... listen you two, we are lonely soldiers long on the road, and it wouldn't be wise to be alone with us. If you know what I mean."

This caused a pair of loud, shocked gasps from them, as well as from the sansou, as two tails popped out from behind them. He growled, backing away, "Tanuki!"

Akira, being full of curiosity, jumped up and ran forward, shouting, "What?? Let me see!"

He was met with a puff of smoke revealling a rather stunned looking creature like a deformed little child wearing a small vest and pants, with fox-like legs and a bushy orange tail. The other being tried to hide its own tail as if it was nothing unusual, blubbering frantically, "Uhh... why didn't you tell me about yourself, you little sneak!"

The little half-animal creature freaked out as Akira leaned forward, drawing a piece of rock from his vest and tossing it, which grew almost instantly into a rather goofy looking idol, landing heavily on Akira's foot. He burst out laughing as the young man yelped, trying to pull himself free but to no avail. "Hey! Damn it, what did you do to me!"

The odd little creature laughed with a smug grin, "Humans fall for that trick every time - AGH!" He was caught off guard as Akira lunged for him, trying to run off, but he stomped on the creature's tail with his free foot. He smiled as the little being scrambled madly in the grass but was stuck fast.

"Just as I thought, you're caught in your own trap now." He reached for him, rather awkwardly in his position, but it was evidently enough of a shock that the little creature fainted. Akira blinked at him in astonishment, shaking him gently at first. "Oy, hey, wake up. Hey you - AGH!" He winced as the little creature sunk his teeth in his hand, smacking it on the head in retaliation. He was about to chastize the being, but stopped as he began bawling loudly. His demeanor softened considerably and he remarked, "Eh... he's just a kit."

Sergeant Mako shook his head at the bizarre scene, while the other being stood by, watching awkwardly. "Drive them off or kill them. They may be small demons, but they bring trouble with them."

He yelped and jumped aside as there was another puff of smoke, revealling a rather plump looking tanuki dressed in fine garb, who began grovelling before the flustered sansou. "Please, your majesties, just let us leave in peace. We promise not to bother you any more. We were just hungry."

Akira muttered as he tried to kneel down beside the still crying kitsune child, "There should be plenty of food out here."

The tanuki muttered, playing with his hands, "Well... we're not too good at hunting or foraging..."

Akira smirked. "You mean, you got too used to mooching off of travellers and got lazy."

The being murmurred somberly at being nailed. "Uhm... that has something to do with it..."

Akira told him, "You should take this one back to be with his kind. Another group might have killed you."

The tanuki said quietly with a shrug, "Well... Shippou is an orphan. His father and mother were killed by lightning demons. I have been watching out for him."

Akira gazed at Shippou somberly for a moment, pulling out a tissue, blowing his nose and wiping his eyes. "Hey, Shippo, is it? Come on now. Stop crying, and I'll make you a deal." He motioned the tanuki over and he whispered to them as the others in the party began watching, curious.
stryker 12-13-2005 11:34 PM
The little kitsune's face went quickly from miserable to surprised, and then he beamed happily. "You promise?? You got yourself a deal!" He said more seriously, perhaps trying to assert a sense of being in control again, "Uhm... now, let me go."

Akira gave him a wry smile. "No tricks now." He was appalled as Shippou burst out laughing and ran around Akira's feet immediately after letting go, stomping at him in outrage. "Why, you little monster!"

Shippou looked offended, as if Akira had missed an obvious joke. "Hey! I just wanted to prove that I was faster than you." He jumped up and plucked a leaf from the idols forehead, which vanished in a puff of smoke to a small rock once more.

Akira grabbed him out of mid-air by the tail, grinning. "WHO is faster??"

Shippou blinked at him in surprise in his upside down position, then muttered resignedly, folding his arms in a rather comical fashion. "Uhm... you are, joush'." Akira watched curiously as the little kit blinked and sniffed at him, muttering, "Nah, no way."

Akira frowned at him suspiciously. "What?"

Shippo, giving him a sideways glance, grunted, "Uhm... trail food."

Akira growled, "You don't WANT ANY?"

This changed the kit's attitude completely and he clasped his hands together, whining, "No! PLEEASE! I'm so hungry!"

Akira groaned, "I swear, kitsune... wait here." He handed Shippou to the tanuki, going to his pack and returning with parcels of food to their delight, while Mako watched disapprovingly. And then he was even more dismayed as Neji came forward with a package of his own, giving one to the tanuki, who bowed graciously.

Mako motioned Neji aside, saying quietly, "Akira is one thing, he always does as he pleases. But you are under my power. Just what are you doing??"

Neji murmured to him as Akira, Shippou and the tanuki tried to eavesdrop. "Sergeant, I am trying to see if we can manage a favor from these powerful beings, for a little bit of food. Would it not be a bargain to open that box for a ration or two?"

Sergeant Mako blinked at him in disbelief. "Give that...THING this object we fought so hard for??" The tanuki obviously caught that remark as his ears drooped to either side of his head.

Neji was persistent. "We can remain by the creature's side while he examines it, and if he tries anything suspicious, he surely cannot handle all of us. Or, for that matter, perhaps they could come back with us to the daimyo and be useful to our lord."

Mako jumped as Matsuo chimed in, along with the others. "They seem friendly enough, and I'm sure they could be very handy, in ways we might not suspect." As the others began to add to the chorus of approval, Akira began to smirk, and the pair of beings began to bob up and down excitedly.

Sergeant Mako eyed the trio eavesdropping to the side and coughed out, drawing the others away, "Ehrm, connnferennnce..." When he thought they were far enough apart, he stared at the men as if they were all idiots. "You do NOT know what you are asking. These creatures don't live among human beings for a reason. They may be friendly, but they are also capable of unbelievable mischief and chaos! These are contrary spirits. They live to mooch off of people and play pranks. The tanuki in particular to drink, and then when they are intoxicated, who knows what they might do! Especially around our women! And you cannot fathom how horrible they can be!" The sansou cast his eyes at the trio, and winced as the tanuki waved to him hopefully.

Saruwatari told him, "Sergeant, look... they don't seem all that bad to any of us. We can HANDLE them, I'm sure. Along with your incredible swords, you know that I am a powerful wizard. *cough* If anything goes wrong, I'm sure we can deal with them. Maybe take them to an enemy country or something if they're all that terrible."

As the sentiment began to accumulate against Sergeant Mako's warnings, he finally put his hands up in the air. "All right, look... I'll forget we ever saw them. They can NOT come back with us. However, if they should FOLLOW us back without our KNOWLEDGE, what can we do about it?"

Neji grinned, muttering, "You softy." As Mako cast a furious look at him, he coughed, saying more distincly, "I said, so what about the object?"

The sansou gave him an irritated glare as he drew forth the pouch holding the cube, going over to the impatiently waiting trio. "Yo... tanuki."

He bowed, saying in humorous elegance, "Hachimon, excellency."

Mako resumed with an uncomfortable cough as the others gathered round. "Uhm... yes, well, considering that we did give you some food, we were wondering if you could help us out with a little problem. We found this... thing, and we do not know what it is. Can you help us."

Mako reluctantly handed it over, and Hachi rolled it in his hands in fascination while Akira held Shippou. "Hmm... this is curious indeed. There is something inside it... but there is... well, it seems like there should be a way to open it, but I cannot find it." He put it in his mouth and chomped on it, and everyone blurted out, "DON'T DO THAT!"

After he recovered from shock, he resumed pondering it, drawing a piece of string from a pocket, winding it around it and pulling it tight. To everyone's amazement, little sparks began to flick out and it began to rattle. But after a minute or so nothing happened, so Hachi stopped, pocketed his string and handed it back regretfully. "Uhm... I am sorry, masters, I have done all I can for you."

The sansou was quite relieved to have it again and put it away, feeling that eyes were upon them. "Oh, that's quite all right, thank you for trying."

As Hachi was about to turn away, Neji said to him privately, "Say... could you do something for me? For some more food?"

Hachi enthusiastically agreed, but then his common sense kicked in and his ears drooped warily. "Erm... what is it, master?"

"I'm very curious about that string you used... could you make me one like it? I can help you if you need anything."

Hachi nodded. "Oh yes, I think I can with a little time. I have to do some things for ak-" He was interrupted by some loud throat clearing from Shippo, still being held by Akira, both of them watching the scene with obvious suspicion. "Erm... anyway, I believe so..."

Neji eyed the pair watching them. "Or anything I might find useful?" Hachi nodded again. "And... you are following us back to the area where we live, aren't you?"

Hachi gave him a big, mischievous smile, saying diplomatically, "I think it is entirely possible we will meet again, master."

Sergeant Mako interrupted, "We have dallied long enough. We really should go."

Hachi sighed and wandered over beside Akira to retrieve Shippou. "We appreciate your gracious blessings, masters." They bowed and Shippou beamed to Akira with a big grin. "Thank you very much, 'oush'! And I'll be sure to-"

Akira leaned down and tussled his coppery head of hair, perhaps interrupting. "Hey now, you behave, and keep that big guy out of trouble."

The tanuki's ears lay flat as he scowled, muttering under his breath, "My name is Hachimon."

As Shippou waved back to them, receeding into the distance, Sergeant Mako remarked irritably, "I AM the ranking member here, you should have waited to see if I was okay to that.

Akira replied rather casually, "Oh, come on, they were just hungry." He watched Shippou as he disappeared with a somber look on his face.

Mako grunted, then couldn't help but smile. "If I didn't know better, I'd say you were as big a softy as our Daimyo."

Akira grinned back. "Eh, maybe." He wandered over to Neji and asked abruptly, "So what was that all about?"

Neji replied offhandedly, "Oh, I was just wondering if they knew about the gang, who they might be mastered by, that's all." Akira knew better but said nothing more.
stryker 12-14-2005 02:16 AM
The rest of the day was fortunately uneventful, as the men still suffered somewhat from their injuries. That night however, as Akira was keeping watch, he heard a commotion out in the woods. As he started to wake everyone up, they did on their own, as cries were heard like some kind of battle. They edged away from the low campfire, holding their weapons ready, their hearts racing as all they could see around them in the darkness were shadows. Abruptly there was a squeal like a child in agony, and a tremendous roar, cries like death, then silence. Finally, as they strained nervously to hear anything more, there was an anguished voice in the distance. "Shippou... Shippou! SHIPPOU!"

Akira started to bolt off into the gloom as Mako stopped him.

Mako: Wait! It may be a trap.

Akira: So I will go and find out! Like we haven't been in one already--

Mako: Just wait! (fumes as Akira glares at him) And I will accompany you... damn, all this over a kitsune...
(looks out anxiously) Hold, something approaches... get ready.

(just then there was a rustle of leaves and a tearful Hachi appears, blood on his robes, holding a lifeless Shippou)

Hachi: Excellencies... please help me... he... is hurt badly... I'll do whatever you ask...

Mako: (motions to Akira) Search around. (to Hachi) Bring him here. Sauwatari, do what you can for him.

Akira: (returns much too soon, kneels beside Shippou) Nothing.

Mako: (to Akira, irritated) You call that a search? (looks to Hachi) Just what on earth was THAT all about??

Hachi: There were some rogues following you... one of them has expensive looking swords. They... causes terrible wounds. (watches Akira stroking Shippou's head sadly, who has a horrible gash deep in his shoulder)

Akira: (to Mako) Them again. You think they want back the things we found rather than vengeance?

Mako: Unh. (to Hachi) How many?

Hachi: There were six, I think. Now... I'm not sure.

Neji: I will scout around with Gin, to be doubly sure.

Mako: (nods) Go. But take no chances.

Akira: (eyes injuries on the tanuki) Are you all right?

Hachi: I am okay, excellency.

Akira: (chuckles) Don't call me that. I'm Akira. Hachi-san?

Hachi: (nods) Hachiemon, Akira-sama. He likes you.

Akira: (thin smile) I think he's attracted to the shiny sword. (somberly) He calls me boss.

Mako: (smirks) You aren't thinking of bringing him back to the Damyo, are you?

Akira: (sighs) Nah, don't be silly. (to Hachi) Did you kill them?

Hachi: (thumps his chest like a drum, snarling) I most certainly did! Those bastards.

Mako: (shakes his head) I still can't believe we're helping these creatures.

Akira: (angrily, as Hachi looks downcast) Sergeant Saotome, come on. They saved us from an ambush.

Mako: (grunts in agreement, looks to Hachi, his ears wilted) Er... Hachi... are you still fit?

Hachi: (thumps his chest like a drum again) I am as strong as ever, master.

Mako: Ermm... I know I have belittled you, but... if we care for Shippo, could you keep watch for us? My men still have injuries.

Hachi: You can count on me, joushi!

Neji: (returns, says quietly) We found four bodies of Nagadoku's men. He was not among them. (eyes Hachi curiously) Their bodies looked to have been mauled as if by tigers...

Mako: (gapes at him, casts a glance at the tanuki) Good lord...

(Saruwatari hesitantly tries to apply his healing magic, as Shippou suffered terrible agony as it mended his wounds. And he felt that ache again deep in his own spirit, seeming to originate from those gashes. But finally it seemed that the kitsune was more at ease, breathing normally if faintly, and they bandage him up)

Saruwatari: I think that's enough for now. I can't do much more magic tonight anyway.

Mako: All right, everyone get some sleep.

Hachi: (murmurs tearfully) I am eternally greatful, masters... he is my only friend...

Mako: (trying not to smile) Ehh... you faced death on our behalf, what else could we do?

(The rest of the night passes uneventfully if restlessly, as every little sound startles them awake, but they are reassured as they see the tanuki resting against a tree, watching the forest for them. When dawn approaches, Sergeant Mako rises and has to smirk as he sees Akira sleeping protectively beside the wounded kitsune, naturally, his blanket across them both. They eat a quick meal and head off, Hachi cradling the still unconscious kit in his arms, waving to the soldiers as they finish the journey home)
* * * * * * * * *

(They return and meet with Nobunaga. Sergeant Yoshi eyes Akira with anger, waiting till meeting is over. Akira sighs, knowing he will have to face the music for abandoning the garrison. There is another guy with a staff and robes there they hadn't seen before, Koji Kaneda, "persistence" in Japanese)

Gin They fought like tigers! I was sure they were going to kill me, but Matsuo-sama stayed by my side and fought relentlessly. Even as he fell, he was striking deadly blows.

Mako: They followed us and were waiting to ambush us while we slept. Fortunately they stumbled onto "something" which drove them away, and we were not attacked. We think they wanted to recapture these items, least of all the money.

Nobunaga: Show them to me. (they lay out the money and jewels, the note, and the wooden cube on a table)

That is a fair amount of money, but hardly worth the effort. These, however... (reads the note, frowning, hands it to Bartukio) Have this examined and transcribed, precisely.

(picks up the cube, fingering it, scratching a nail across its surface lightly) This truly puzzles me. It seems there is something inside it, but there is no sign of anything but a solid surface, almost as if the wood was grown around it.

Mako: (looks to Saruwatari who comes forward) Our magician would like to try something.

Saruwatari: (nods) I know a spell of opening I could try.

Nobunaga: Perform it.

Saruwatari: (casts his spell, and the cube shakes, rattling on the table for a few moments then returns to inertia) Damn it... I thought I could get it open, no problem.

Koji: (in a rather thin voice) My lord, let me try. (gets permission and stands before it, rather dramatically sweeps his own staff over it a few times, intones loudly)
Kaitsuu no shoshun hitohana! ("opening of the spring flowers")

(A wind sweeps through the chamber, and then for a moment nothing happened. But then there was utter chaos. The doors flew open. The cabinets opened. Drawers jumped out of their slots. Bartukio began swearing as his trousers dropped. Everyone looked around in amazement. But then, they heard a rattling noise coming from the table)

Koji: (excitedly) Look!

(The box was dancing on the table, as if something was fighting to get out, and sparks began shooting from it as it began to unfold along invisible seams like a Chinese puzzle box. And then, everyone drew a hushed breath as a purple glow began to fill the room. Within the opened magical container was a clear crystal sphere a bit over an inch in diameter, and within it was a sliver of another crystal, emanating a dazzling lavender light)

Nobunaga: (in a hushed voice) Amazing...
(Then he noticed that everyone else was transfixed, gazing at it as if hypnotized, almost greedily. And in his own heart, he felt an unnatural fixation on the strange crystal as well)

(murmurs) Captain Bartukio?

Bartukio: (shook as if startled from sleep) My lord? What a strange jewel this is...

Baupustin: (dreamily) Beautiful...

(Nobunaga snatched it up, and it felt warm to his touch, almost as if it were alive. Everyone blinked as if waking from some kind of spell, causing Nobunaga to worry. Neji was perplexed. He could dimly sense the location of the crystal, closing his eyes and turning, it was as if he could percieve its location exactly. Nobunaga watched him intently, as does Akira)

Nobunaga: (clutching it to his chest) Do you all... feel an attraction to this crystal? (one by one they murmur yes)

I will have to study this, and somehow unravel its mystery. This is obviously very powerful, and I doubt that Nagadoku or his master will rest until it is retrieved. (eyes the others almost suspiciously)

Captain Bartukio, accompany me.

Bartukio: (startled) Oh, uh... hai, my lord.

Nobunaga: (looks behind him to the table) The note, Captain.
(picks it up in embarrassment and follows the lord from the room)
stryker 12-14-2005 03:37 PM
(Sergeant Mako looks to Sergeant Yoshi knowingly and makes a tactical retreat with his men. Neji looks to Akira and Yoshi facing off, wishing he could follow them)

Yoshi: (sternly) Akira. Come with me.
(inside his chamber) Why did you desert your garrison? Sergeant Saotome, I can understand, they are his men. But, why you?

Akira: Yoshi-sama--

Yoshi: TAKEMURA.

Akira: Forgive me, Takemura-sama. I did what I thought was right. You saw what happened to them. That bastard would have killed them all--

Yoshi: What you thought was right? Who are you to decide what is right? Do you presume to be wiser than Lord Nobunaga? Perhaps he thought those three were spies, and sent them deliberately to their deaths. Or... are you not telling me everything?

Akira: (pauses) Well... I couldn't let them fight alone.

Yoshi: Them? Or HIM?

(Outside, a crowd is gathering as the noise of their confrontation reaches outside the office, and word spreads quickly about Akira returning from his absence. Everyone tries to peek through every window and open doorway. In time, practically the entire garrison has collected around the building. Even Mako and the others join in the eavesdropping)

Akira: How well you see through me... I fought for all of them. But, hai, I fought for him! I had to! I HAVE to know if I am the strongest. I must know if I have a weakness, if I have something to learn! Takemura-sama you are like 12 samurai folded into one. But how could you rest if there was one other with the strength of 13! How could you let him die, without testing your spirit and sword against his? Of all people, I thought you would understand. I thought you were smart enough-- AGH.

Yoshi: (slaps him) You will NOT disrespect me.

Akira: (blinking) I... beg your forgiveness, Takemura-sama. I meant no disrespect. I spoke without thinking. My actions were brash and undisciplined.

Yoshi: Indeed, constantly! You acted selfishly. Akira, there is honor, and ambition, but when you act out of pride, it can become arrogant disobedience. Your primary duty is to your Daimyo, and your comrades. You are the pride of this army. You are the one who sets our example! You must always keep this in mind. You gave up the right to run off and do as you please when you swore your oath before the lord. You of all people can NOT be irresponsible. At the very least, you could have asked permission!

Akira: And what if you said no!

Yoshi: Then you would have gone anyway. Don't tell me otherwise. Now, things would be different if you had said that you went to keep your comrades alive. But this was done purely out of prideful disobedience. (picks up a flail) You know the primary rule here. Lord Nobunaga tells it to us often enough. Be ready always to face the consequences of your actions. Bare your back to me.

Akira: (turns quietly, undoing his top) Hai...

Yoshi: (sees bandages, hesitates, but lashes him two times, Akira falters) I thought you were stronger than that.

Akira: (gasps) I am sorry...

Yoshi: (gasps sharply when he sees blood in Akira's bandages) Bakara, why didn't you tell me you were still injured! (reaches down to help him up)

Akira: The... right moment hadn't come.. I am sorry... I didn't want to concern you... Besides, it's not that bad.

Yoshi: Hey. Don't- (touches him with the flail, then realizes and throws it down, regards him for a moment) Akira-kun... I think you will always baffle me. You drive yourself so hard.

Akira: No more than you do.

Yoshi: (chuckles) I doubt that! But what I meant to say is, don't appologize for being what you are. Or running off without permission to save someone, even if it is for twisted reasons. If you're unhappy with yourself, become better. It is natural to make mistakes when you are young. But learn from them.

Akira: (makes a fist) Hai... sensei.

Yoshi: (bows his head, makes a fist) Sensei. Uhm... I have some ointment, if you need--

Akira: No, I'll use this pain to discipline me.

Someone in crowd: That is SO COOL!!

(Yoshi and Akira both gape in shock and mortal embarrassment as they realize virtually the ENTIRE brigade has been eavesdropping on this, and was now fleeing for cover as Yoshi bellows in outrage, threatening anyone he can manage to recognize with utter destruction) Big Grin

(afterwards)
Koji: (to Saruwatari) Come with me. We must talk.
(Koji leads them to a place beside the castle)

It seems to me that there is one magician here too many. If you can see clearly, you should realize that you should return to your master, and leave this fiefdom in my capable hands. I think.

Saruwatari: (folds his arms defiantly) "I think" I am fine right here. "I think" you should leave.

Koji: Oh, I see that you don't back down from a great challenge! I like that in an opponent. But you should prepare yourself. I will not go easy on you! Let's see how you deal with this!
Wazurawashii Nagai Gurasu! ("troublesome lengthy grass," a breeze blows across them, and then grass begins to run up Saruwatari's leg and... tickles! He gives Koji a puzzled look, shakes his leg from it but watches to see if this is some kind of ploy for a real attack)

Koji: A man not easily shaken! But will you be able to deal with this!
Geigeki no Keikyoku Shomondai! ("ambush of thorny problems," another breeze blows, a rose bush grows at Saruwatari and... scratches at him. He fends off the bushes and looks at Koji like he's some kind of moron)

Koji: A man who faces challenges head on. A worthy opponent indeed! But now let's see how you deal with my ultimate power!
Golem no Resuringu Sutoro! ("golem of wrestling straw," another wind blows past,and then Koji tosses a small figure of straw which quickly grows to man-size which... tussles with him and not much else! Saruwatari can't quite believe this, thinking it has to be some kind of ploy for a secret attack and throws the writhing figure aside, readying for the real assault. But to his surprise, Koji falls at his feet!)

Koji: I... cannot believe how strong you are! You took the fullness of my strength, and brushed it aslide like dry leaves! (grabs his leg) You must teach me, master! Show me how you are able to be so great! I will do whatever it takes to ascend to your lofty stature!

Saruwatari: (mutters in shock as he tries to shake free) But... you opened the magic box...

Koji: (insistently) How can it compare to your corage of iron! Please, I beg you!

Saruwatari: (shakes him off) I tell you what... I MIGHT agree to tutor you. IF... you show me how you opened that wooden cube.

Koji: (blinks in dismay) B-b-but... it is my one true secret power! I cannot reveal that...

Saruwatari: (shrugs and walks off) In that case, you think about my offer. I'm hungry. I have been eating trail chow for two days, and the fish smells great. You can sit here and play in your "ferocious grass"--

Bartukio: (sticks his head out a window, as if on cue) Koji, you idiot! Are you messing up the yard again?! Baka! And you, Saruwatari, are you responsible for this too?! Come back here and straighten out this mess, both of you! KOJI! YOU TWO!!
(Both of them make a mad dash for the dining hall)

(As Neji returns to the barracks, he barely catches sight of a hand flying around a pillar to strike him hard in the throat, stunning and choking him. As he climbsto his feet, he hears the sound of someone fleeing and sees a piece of paper left there, reading in a scrawl, "Don't interfere." He leaps out into the courtyard but sees no one, and only a trace of a few footprints beneath the railing where he was...)
stryker 12-16-2005 12:57 PM
Neji had little time to worry about this disturbing incident as things began to grow rather complicated.

Saruwatari could barely contain himself that day, excited over the prospect of an item of such great power so close at hand! He decided to make a trip out to his master, Tsubaki, and see if she could equip him in some way to enable him to break into the castle's stronghold and steal the double crystal. He was sure that she would be overjoyed about the news, and to see him and shower him with "favor" after his long absence from her. But he had to hurry, in case that buffoon Koji was after it too. He noticed Akira loitering with his gang as they were waiting for the dining hall to open, looking as non-chalant as ever, and decided to ask someone who had been there a while if he could get a horse and some time off for the weekend.

Akira gave him a dim look. "You will do well to observe the chain of command we have here. The man to ask is that one." He pointed up to Sergeant Saotome. "But I can tell you that we cannot go joyriding on the garrison's horses. They are specifically for official errands and war."

He cringed, not feeling on great terms with the Sergeant, but knew he had to ask. The sansou frowned at him, saying he would have to check with the Captain about that, and that the garrison's horses weren't available for personal needs. "But... there are horses for hire in the village, and as long as there is nothing required of you, I have no orders specifically keeping you in the garrison, so there should be no problem."

He went on his way, practically dancing in anticipation, while Akira watched him with narrowing eyes...

Saru got some bad news during supper. Sergeant Mako came to him and explained to him guardedly, "I am sorry, I spoke a bit hastily. They have just informed me that no one can leave the garrison to go beyond the limits of the city until further notice. And everyone is forbidden to tell anyone anything about 'that object,' or they will suffer the ultimate penalty." He saw that Saru was crestfallen, and added, "Surely this trip can wait a couple of weeks or so. I hope you understand, and I really should have thought of this, but it has been a rather trying day for all of us."

Neji and Matsuo asked what the problem was, and Saru explained that he had to see his mentor, to... see about becoming stronger, so he could be more use. Yeah, that's the ticket. And to see about doing something with Koji, who he doesn't trust. Those were good excuses. Neji urged caution. "This isn't something you can do easily, defying such an order. Be careful."

And then, Saru had an idea, going out of the garrison grounds to the city. Neji saw Akira trailing him discreetly, and decided rather than follow him and being noticed himself, he headed to the horse stables in town to wait for Saru, thinking that's where he was headed.

However he went to the woods to find the kit and tanuki, to see if they could help him. It took quite a bit of searching as he wasn't sure where they were, but finally Hachi appeared. Saru explained that he needed some help in dealing with Koji, this new wizard, and wondered if he knew anything about other wizards in the area who might be his master. Hachi knew of Tsubaki, and some other guy who's name escaped him. "But we are rather afraid of both of them, and avoid them. That is all I know." And then Hachi brightened when Saru mentioned wanting to visit Tsubaki soon. "If you need to travel, I can get you around faster than a horse."

Saru blinked. "Seriously??" Hachi nodded. "Well! Then you'll feast if you can do that for me!"

Hachi said enthusiastically, "Excellent! Because I will need plenty of food for such a trip." Saru didn't know if Hachi realy meant he WANTED a lot of food, but a big meal would be worth it.

When Saru failed to appear, Neji got antsy, thinking maybe Akira decided to confront the magician and went searching for him. But then he spotted him returning from the woods, looking rather pleased. But he also saw Akira shadowing him, and wondered what he'd observed.

Akira got Neji's attention back in the barracks and lured him outside to talk. "You'd better discourage Saruwatari from any ideas of leaving. The Daimyo may be lenient in many ways, but when it comes to something like this, he's as serious as Nagadoku. And letting anyone know about that crystal... well, I won't allow it. Will you stop him, or help me stop him, to save his life?"

Neji felt kind of stuck but knew Akira was right. "I'll see what I can do."

The next morning, a monk named Roshi journeyed to the garrison just before dawn, accompanied by a youth he'd encountered on the way called Masashi. The monk had heard of this strange daimyo in his travels and decided to head there, as there seemed to be no master of Buddhism about to minister to the people. Masashi was a rather somber young man who didn't talk much, saying he had lost his family to Nagadoku's bandits, and was hoping to find favor with the daimyo simply in order to live. As it was still early, not much was going on so they waited against the garrison wall, watching a young man climb the tallest tree on the field.

Akira enjoyed rising a little early for a chance at solitude and meditation, standing atop the tallest part of the tree for a time, watching the morning sun rise above the low hills to the east, savoring the peace for a while. And then, he spread his arms, and dived off...

Masashi jumped to his feet in astonishment, gasping, "That man is killing himself."

Someone else noticed as well, as Sergeant Yoshi began screaming, making a mad dash onto the field and knocking aside anyone who got in his way, sure that his beloved star soldier had finally lost it. He tried to get there in time to try and catch the suicidal youth but didn't quite make it. He blinked in shock however, as Akira tucked into a roll at the last moment, smacking headlong into his superior and knocking them both over. Saru, Neji, Matsuo and some others came out in time to see Yoshi ranting at the defiant youth.

Yoshi: "Y-y-you maniac... just what in hell do you think you're DOING?! Argh, how many times am I going to say that! Are you trying to kill yourself?! Or me?! Or what?! Don't tell me you've been doing this behind my back!"

Akira: (chuckles, sly grin) That was my 100th jump like that. And I've fallen much further.

Yoshi: (chokes, eyebrow twitch) You... cannot be serious... I, I, I... don't know whether to praise you, or send you to the brig for punnishment!

Akira: Takamura-sama, let me train myself and my team as I see fit. We are the strongest soldiers you will ever see, and we can become much stronger, if you let me handle things!

Yoshi: (puts his hand up, sighs) Listen, Akira-kun... I don't know if you think you are invincible, or are attempting to become so, but... (sees Akira is staring at him in defiance) Uhm... just... don't let me know what you are doing. Ever. Please... I don't think I could take the strain of knowing...

Akira: (grins and fists his palm) Hai, Takemura-sama.

Yoshi: (puts his hand up and walks off, making a kind of groaning-moaning sound) I didn't see you yet this morning... this never happened...

Akira went over with the others to see who the new guys were. He didn't know what to make of Masashi. He looked like a strong man, but his will seemed utterly crushed. What use could he be? Sergeant Mako talked with them a bit and told them they could at least expect a meal after morning training. Masashi spent the time staring at virtually everything with an emotionless gaze.

At breakfast, Roshi and Masashi were told to sit with Sergeant Mako's platoon, as if they were accepted, those would be their comrades. And it was about then that Saruwatari decided to hatch a scheme. He palmed one of his spore pods, crushing it very carefully so that the spores wouldn't escape and cause chaos. He was hoping to sprinkle some on some of his neighbor's plates, as the spores would cause a bad stomach ache if eaten, but they seemed to be too busy wolfing down their food. But then he noticed the seasoning bowl, pretending to almost drop it, sprinking the spore powders on it and mixing it in. He muttered to the others the "safety word" they had worked out with each other after Neji's little fiasco with the flash bombs. "Banana, *cough*."

Saru's idea was to cause a few of them at most to suffer from it, but there was a problem. Sergeant Mako was recently promoted, so a platoon was created for him to lead. Of course, no one wanted to let him have any of their good troops, so he got all the undisciplined rejects. So when they saw the spice bowl nearly spilled, they added a little extra to their food in case Saru dumped it for real. And when their food began to taste unpleassant, they added more spice, making things worse. Roshi and Masashi watched all this transpire as Neji pointed to the spice bowl and shook his head, and then in alarm as one by one, most of the troops began to look ill and stagger towards the exit to hit the infirmary! Saru groaned as even Sergeant Mako fell victim, thinking he was going to be executed for sabotaging virtually the entire platoon, but went on with his plan anyway, following the sansou to the sick house.

Lord Nobunaga got wind of this and came down himself to inspect, frowning in dismay, but was puzzled that only this one table had suffered apparent food poisoning. He noticed a few others eating, apparently unaffected, and asked to sample their food, and of course it was fine. And then he thought to sample the spice bowl, and smirked at the trace of bitter flavor, taking it and handing it to Baupustin. Akira watched all this, his brows furrowed in anger.

Neji and Matsuo began to perspire, wondering how they were going to rescue their friend from THIS fiasco!

Dun dun dun!! Stay tuned! Big Grin